It was not the outcome he wanted nor one he would have expected but Lewis Hamilton was relieved to at least limit the damage to a seventh place finish in Sunday’s frustrating and problematic Monaco Grand Prix.
Unable to get to grips with the car in a difficult qualifying session, the Brit was forced to start from 13th on the grid around the streets of Monte Carlo where overtaking is notoriously difficult.
That duly proved the case in a largely predictable race but Hamilton remained patient and bided his time, picking off rivals one by one before eventually settling for seventh position, while chief title rival Sebastian Vettel took victory.
That extended the German’s lead to 25 points in the overall standings, leaving Mercedes boss Toto Wolff to concede the tables have turned and that his team are now the ‘underdogs’ after three years of unwavering dominance in the sport.
But Hamilton came away from Monaco upbeat, even if he did admit that Mercedes have work to do to catch Ferrari and stay on track for a fourth world title.
“I went in with a positive mentality and pushed as hard as I could,” he said. “I’m really happy with the result.
“I don’t know exactly what happened. I didn’t have the car to get me through to the final section of qualifying and in the race I couldn’t make much progress.
“This has been a difficult weekend for me and the team and we need to be stronger. I feel that Ferrari are now looking at Sebastian Vettel as their number one driver, and that will make the fight for the championship even harder than it is now.”
Sunday’s race was tinged with an element of controversy when Vettel eased in front of pole-sitter Kimi Räikkönen on lap 34, prompting suggestions it was an orchestrated move by Ferrari to favour the current World Championship leader.
But nevertheless, a one-two lock out in qualifying was turned into a one-two at the end of the race for the Italian team - their first in seven years - with Vettel taking his third victory of 2017.
Daniel Ricciardo was third for Red Bull with Valtteri Bottas fourth in the second Mercedes.
Another driver celebrating was Carlos Sainz, the Scuderia Toro Rosso racer who again showed his talent for racing around Monaco by scoring a fine sixth place finish.
Racing for the Bicester-based team, Sainz said: “I really enjoy this race, this is what F1 is all about. I had a good car, it felt good, and I am really happy for all the team. This is a really good result and I am now eighth in the world championship. I am really looking forward to the next races.”
Sainz’s Toro Rosso team mate, Daniil Kvyat, was a retirement after he was hit from behind by the Force India of Sergio Perez. Running in ninth position at the time of contact, Kvyat said: “I felt we could have scored good points today. To finish the race early was a disappointment for me.”
The whole weekend was a struggle for Silverstone-based Sahara Force India, with Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon finishing outside of the top ten placings for the first time in 2017.
Ocon suffered a crash during practice, and finished his debut Monaco Grand Prix in 12th, while Perez finished one place lower in 13th. Ocon said: “It was not the best weekend for the team and we probably failed to show our true potential. We will put this race down to experience and move to Canada again looking for top ten finishes.”
Canada hosts the season’s next race on June 11.